US military chief sorry for joining Trump walk

US military chief sorry for joining Trump walk
Gen Milley (R) was on the walk with the president and Defence Secretary Mark Esper (C)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gen Milley (R) was on the walk with the president, as was Defence Secretary Mark Esper (C)

The top US military officer says he was wrong to have joined President Donald Trump during his controversial walk to a damaged church near the White House.

The 1 June event created "a perception of the military involved in domestic politics", Gen Mark Milley said.

Mr Trump walked to the church and held up a Bible after a peaceful protest at the death of African American George Floyd was forcibly dispersed.

The use of troops to tackle the protests has provoked fierce US debate.

Mr Trump has regularly referred to "law and order", calling in the National Guard to the US capital, vowing to deploy the military to other cities and condemning violent protests.

Some of the mostly peaceful initial protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month did turn violent with looting in several cities.

But since four police officers were charged in connection with the death, the protests have been more peaceful, spawning an international movement against police brutality and racial inequality.

Video footage of the death in Minneapolis shows a white officer kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

What did Gen Milley say?

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was speaking in a video for a National Defense University commencement ceremony.

He said: "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.

"As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Military personnel were deployed near the White House during protests

Gen Milley added: "We must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic."

He also said he was outraged at the "senseless, brutal killing" of George Floyd.

Gen Milley said: "The protests that have ensued not only speak to his killing but also to centuries of injustice toward African Americans."

The general was wearing battle uniform as he walked with the president and critics said this suggested his support for the deployment of the military against protesters.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper was also on the walk and, although he has not said he was wrong to be there, suggested in a news conference that he thought the walk was for a different purpose of mingling with troops and inspecting damage.

Senior officials told US media that Mr Trump had yelled at Mr Esper after the conference.

A stunning break from the president

Nada Tawfik, BBC News, New York

This is just the latest sign of growing friction between the White House and the military over how best to deal with the country's history of racism and the current movement for change.

The incident, which Gen Milley now regrets, placed troops right in the middle of domestic politics and, no less, in an election year.

Several former generals have come out publicly against Mr Trump's "law and order" approach to what is a human rights issue - equality for black Americans. The president's first defence secretary, retired general James Mattis, said he never dreamed that troops would be ordered to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.

But this statement from Gen Milley, given his position at the top of the US military, is a far rarer and more stunning public break from the president.

What happened on the day?

A peaceful demonstration was cleared in Lafayette Square next to the White House with pepper spray and flash-bang grenades so that the president and his entourage could walk to St John's Episcopal Church.

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Media captionTrump mobilises the military and makes walk to the church

With the dispersal still ongoing, Mr Trump spoke in the Rose Garden, calling on governors to use the National Guard to "dominate the streets" or he would "deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them".

Mr Trump, who sees himself as a champion of evangelical and conservative voters, then walked to the church, the basement of which had been burned the previous day, and held up a Bible.

A number of religious leaders criticised his actions. The presiding bishop of the the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, accused Mr Trump of using the church for "partisan political purposes".

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Media captionThe Minneapolis community at the heart of the protests is rebuilding after destruction caused by rioting

Mr Trump said "most religious leaders loved" his visit to the church and denied having any role in dispersing protesters beforehand.

His latest tweet on the issue on Thursday again praised the security forces.

What are the latest developments on George Floyd's death?

  • Statues linked to colonialist or imperialist figures continue to be vandalised in the US and abroad, including those of Christopher Columbus and Confederate president Jefferson Davis
  • Country music band Lady Antebellum have changed their name to Lady A. Antebellum in the US refers to the slavery period before the Civil War
  • An amendment in the Armed Services Committee of the Republican-led Senate now requires Mr Trump to rename military bases named after Confederate generals, something he has refused to do. Prospects the amendment will pass the full Senate though are unclear
  • Europe could see a surge in Covid-19 infections as a result of massive Black Lives Matter rallies, EU officials say

More on George Floyd's death

US protests timeline

George Floyd dies after police arrest

Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial
Image caption Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial Image copyright by Getty Images

George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe". He is pronounced dead later in hospital.

Protests begin

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Image caption Demonstrators in Minneapolis Image copyright by AFP

Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.

Protests spread

Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon
Image caption Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon Image copyright by Reuters

Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting "I can’t breathe". Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.

Trump tweets

President Trump tweets about the unrest
Image caption President Trump tweets about the unrest Image copyright by Reuters

President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet. He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for "glorifying violence".

CNN reporter arrested

Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest
Image caption Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest Image copyright by Reuters

A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.

Derek Chauvin charged with murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd
Image caption Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd Image copyright by Getty Images

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

Sixth night of protests

Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York
Image caption Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York Image copyright by Reuters

Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested. Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.

Trump threatens military response

Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church
Image caption Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church Image copyright by EPA

President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and "defend their residents" he will deploy the army and "quickly solve the problem for them". Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.

Eighth night of protests

George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston
Image caption George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston Image copyright by Getty

Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.

Memorial service for George Floyd

Mourners gather to remember George Floyd
Image caption Mourners gather to remember George Floyd Image copyright by Getty

A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis. Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.

International protests

Protester addresses crowds in Australia
Image caption Protester addresses crowds in Australia Image copyright by Getty

As the US saw another weekend of protests, with tens of thousands marching in Washington DC, anti-racism demonstrations were held around the world.

In Australia, there were major protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians. There were also demonstrations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. In Bristol, protesters tore down the statue of a 17th century slave trader and threw it into the harbour.

Funeral service for George Floyd

Pallbearers bring the coffin into the church
Image caption Pallbearers bring the coffin into the church Image copyright by Getty

A funeral service for George Floyd is held in Houston, Mr Floyd’s home town. Just over two weeks after his death in Minneapolis and worldwide anti-racism protests, about 500 guests invited by the Floyd family are in attendance at the Fountain of Praise Church. Many more gather outside to show their support.

Source :
www.bbc.co.uk